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Work for the Smile

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I got the call around midday and there was no hesitation. I could be there in about twenty minutes if I left right away. So right away is when I left.

My wife had called and said that our five-year old son Derek, had been injured on the playground and that she was driving him to the Emergency Room. Apparently at some point he forgot to duck. I quickly assumed that since he wasn't going in an ambulance that things weren't too bad. But still I was a little worried.

That's my little buddy.

Twenty minutes is not long.

Only about five songs and I'd be there. Please no commercials. I wanted this time to fly by. And it did.

I quickly found a parking spot and ran to the waiting room. My wife was holding Derek and he was funneling Skittles at quite an impressive rate. Whatever it takes to distract a five-year old and sugar usually does the trick

It seemed to take longer than I had imagined, but then again it always does. Especially when it's your own child and you're not quite sure what happens next. After about twenty minutes we were called back to a smaller room. I've learned over the years that as you get closer and closer to seeing the doctor the rooms get smaller and smaller.

The nurse came and gave him the once-over. He wasn't worried so neither was I. I could tell that the sugar was wearing off and that Derek was beginning to wonder what was going to happen next. Still he clung to my wife.

As we waited a bit longer we tried to get him to relax but we also realized that it wasn't that long ago that he was covered in blood. Sitting still and waiting is not easy for me because my mind and body always feel the urge to move.

And so I decided to try to distract him.


What could I...?

I got it!

I reached into the box that was stuck to the wall and pulled out two gloves. Next, I blew and blew and blew into them until they were balloon-sized. I handed them to Derek and the result is what you see above. A smile and laughter that made everything okay. If just for a little while.

Soon after my son had three staples put in his head and a week later they were removed. He was/is fine and actually ran around the house the next day while my wife and I took a nap.

I choose to remember that day as one in which I was able to get my son to laugh using just two rubber gloves.

Not a day that I had to rush to the ER.

Not a day when my son was crying and covered in blood.

Not a day when my son got staples put in his head.

Each and every day that we work with children we have the power and the ability to make them smile. We are the ones that can determine what memories they take home with them each day. That is an awesome responsibility!

No matter what, we should send our students home each day with at least one thing to smile or laugh about. And we should make a big deal about that one thing. I think we owe them that much.


What matters most are the simple pleasures so abundant that we can all enjoy them...Happiness doesn't lie in the objects we gather around us. To find it, all we need to do is open our eyes.


Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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Jon is currently the assistant principal in Dorchester County, Maryland. This is his seventh year serving as an assistant principal at the elementary level. Prior to becoming an administrator he served as a Math Coach and an elementary school teacher. During his ten years as a classroom teacher he taught first, second, fourth and fifth grades. During his sixth year teaching he earned Nationally Board Certification, which he held for ten years. For seven years he ran a Young Gentleman's Club that was aimed at helping young men reach their full potential.  

Jon received a B.A. from Furman University while majoring in Philosophy. He later went on to earn his B.S from Salisbury University while majoring in Elementary Education. Jon was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to student teach in New Zealand. He eventually received his M.A. degree from Salisbury University in Public School Administration.

Jon lives in Cambridge, Maryland with his amazing wife and two awesome children.

  • Rita Wirtz |  @RitaWirtz
    Rita Wirtz | @RitaWirtz Wednesday, 15 June 2016

    Jon, I love this blog post. You made me smile. Memories raising four. Great story and what an adorable child! Glad he's ok. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jon Harper /  @Jonharper70bd
    Jon Harper / @Jonharper70bd Wednesday, 15 June 2016

    Thank you so much Rita. I can see why this piece connected with you because I can just tell from your writing that you are a beautiful soul just like my son. Your kind words mean a lot.

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